“The mission of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) is to ensure all students have access to world-class education and quality online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success.”
With this opening, iNACOL introduces its National Standards for Online Learning,as well as its mission as an organization. Since initial publication in 2007, iNACOL’s standards have become the first yardstick for K–12 schools and state boards of education in evaluating online course materials. Most evaluators add their own criteria to the mix, but the iNACOL standards provide a widely regarded foundation for the process.
The 52 iNACOL National Standards for Online Learning are organized into five major categories covering pedagogical, technical, and support criteria:
1. Content standards verify that the course “provides online learners with multiple ways of engaging with learning experiences” and that the course is aligned to appropriate content standards.
2. Instructional Design standards ensure that the course engages students in active learning with plenty of opportunity for interaction and personal communication.
3. Student Assessment standards verify that the course uses multiple and appropriate approaches and activities for both formative and summative assessment.
4. Technology standards ensure that the course takes full advantage of powerful learning technology, a user-friendly interface, and accessibility features for learners with special needs.
5. Course Evaluation and Support standards verify that the course is evaluated regularly and kept up to date, that online instructors and their students are properly prepared for online learning, and that they receive appropriate support.
Every year, Edmentum updates its course design requirements to meet new market needs and to take advantage of new opportunities in technology. In 2013, those new design enhancements were especially extensive, based on our goal to have 100% compliance with the iNACOL standards across our entire course lineup. All new courses were created to meet those standards, but we also updated all of our preexisting course curricula to meet those revised design standards. Some of the notable enhancements at that time included:
- Online student syllabus
- A course and system overview to orient new students and prepare them for success in online learning
- Accessibility enhancements, including closed-captioning on all videos for the hearing impaired, alt-text on images for visually impaired students using screen readers, and both recorded audio and text-to-speech technologies to support English language learners and students with reading difficulties
- Updated all lessons and activities in every course to ensure that students never see ads on any online resource accessed within the course (even simple, tasteful, sponsor credit links on nonprofit sites)
- Enhanced our pre-tests, post-tests, and end-of-semester exams with a wide variety of technology-enhanced (TE) assessment items
Through careful adherence to iNACOL standards and Edmentum’s own design standards, hundreds of Edmentum’s courses have been approved for use on state curriculum lists in recent years. Most of these approval processes depend on both the iNACOL standards and state-specific criteria. Two independent evaluation organizations are especially widely used by multiple states and districts to ensure fulfillment of the iNACOL standards and state content standards: Certica and Quality Matters.
To date, Certica has evaluated and reported on 158 courses from Edmentum with respect to iNACOL standards. Certica approved all of those courses and provided perfect or near-perfect iNACOL ratings for each (52/52). Certica currently is evaluating an additional 65 courses, and we anticipate that they will be approved with the same high marks.
Several other states depend on Quality Matters to perform an extensive evaluation covering both iNACOL standards and curriculum content standards. To date, Quality Matters has conducted reviews of 47 Edmentum courses. All those courses have been “QM Certified.” Based on state list and adoption needs, Edmentum expects to submit 40 additional courses for QM review over the next 18 months.
It’s worth repeating that Edmentum reviews and enhances its instructional design standards every year, going beyond iNACOL’s standards for online learning. Over the past three years, for instance, all new courses have been designed to be mobile-friendly, and hundreds of existing courses have been converted to be mobile-friendly as well. That’s been a huge undertaking to address a very real need for schools, but it’s not an iNACOL requirement.
Likewise, every new course project spurs innovation to provide the best possible learning experience. Our new Algebra 1 and 2 courses—to be released this summer and fall—feature robust new practice opportunities, new technology-enhanced item types for both learning and assessment purposes, and powerful new graphing tools to support constructivist experimentation and learning. Our new high school Biology and Earth and Space Science courses to be released this summer provide extensive hands-on inquiry and laboratory activities suitable for either classroom implementation or individual student use.
At Edmentum, we’re dedicated to be educators’ most trusted partner in creating successful outcomes everywhere learning occurs. The iNACOL standards provide a solid framework to guide our in-house curriculum developers, and we’re proud to meet and exceed those specifications by prioritizing persistent, ongoing innovation to ensure that our courses truly remain the best available for schools, educators, and students.